There isn't a shred of evidence to suggest that Attorney General Eric Holder knew about the botched "gun-walking" scandal known as "Fast and Furious" before Congress began asking him about it in early 2011, according to a long-awaited report by the Justice Department's inspector general. However, Holder's subordinate, deputy assistant attorney general Jason Weinstein, is resigning in wake of the report.
For the last 18-months, Holder has endured round after round of testy congressional hearings where Nixon-stye questioning "what did you know, when did you know it?" by Republicans attempted to hold him responsible for the failed program. There is "no evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder was informed about Operation Fast and Furious, or learned about the tactics employed by ATF in the investigation" prior to congressional inquiries, reads the report. But that doesn't mean Holder's subordinates at the DOJ and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are in the clear.
CNN reports 14 officials face disciplinary action for their roles in the program which was plagued by a "series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment and management failures" on behalf of agents, prosecutors and senior ATF officials. The biggest names to take the fall are Weinstein and Kenneth Melson, the former acting-director of the ATF. "The inappropriate strategy and tactics employed were field-driven and date back to 2006; The leadership of the Department did not know about or authorize the use of the flawed strategy and tactics; and The Department’s leadership did not attempt to cover up information or mislead Congress about it," said Holder, as he accepted Weinstein's resignation.
There's no way this report is going to muzzle Republican critics who skewered Holder for failing to forthrightly answer questions about the program, but the investigation does carry some lasting weight, as Talking Points Memo's Ryan Reilly notes. "The IG report is considered to be the most comprehensive and least partisan account of the scandal available to date," he writes. "Unlike investigators with Rep. Darrell Issa’s House Oversight Committee, DOJ investigators had access to criminal investigation files." Cue Issa, who took to Twitter following the report's release:
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, meanwhile, says the report "should finally put to rest the unfounded claims" that the scandal went all the way to the top. At the heart of the investigation was a tragedy in the form of the death of federal border agent Brian Terry, who was killed near the Mexico border in 2010 in a shootout where two of weapons tied to Fast & Furious turned up at the scene. No one is denying that the program was deeply flawed and resulted in thousands of guns being lost to Mexican nationals in an attempt to track down drug cartel higher-ups. However, the report blunts repeated calls from Republicans for Holder to resign.